by Alexandra Stevenson
Tatiana & Max: Not quite as Sensational as in the Short Program, but Clearly the Best There Is
Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, the current world champions, dominated the Pairs event, as expected, and, although their Free was not quite as spectacular as their Short Program, it was clearly in a category well above their rivals, who, in this event, did not include the German 4-time world champions, Aliona Savchenko & Robin Skolkowy, whom they had dethroned last March in the World Championships in London, Ontario.
Volosozhar, who originally is from Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine, & Trankov, who is from Perm, were sensation in the Short. Their Free, set to the music “Jesus Christ, Superstar” was great – just not as great as their Short Program. However, it, too, looks unbeatable. There was a lot of angst beforehand about him playing the character and a theme of a love triangle between him, Judas and the virgin Mother Mary Magdalene! FurgetAboutit! The music is lovely and has been “interpreted” by many skaters. Just relax and let it flow over you. Enough with the motives behind each step!
They begin with a triple twist which was not only the maximum Level 4 but gained +3 maximum Grades of Execution from eight of the nine judges. (One judge gave “only” +2! – the meanie!) Could this spectacular move, in which she soars many feet in the air rotating horizontally and twisting through three full 360 degree turns before being caught, been done better? I absolutely believe it could not! It was a privilege to just be in this aging building, and witness such a talent.
Their side-by-side triple Salchows were certainly well executed but were mundane by comparison. The following triple toe loop to double toe loop jump combinations had the judging panel giving a majority of +2s, but two gave the more realistic -1. (The other two GoEs were a 0 and a +1). Maybe the negative awards came from judges seeing the jump combo from a closer view point.)
The back outside death spiral was only Level 2, not held in the down position for long enough to warrant a greater Level. The Tech Panel comprised Russian, Igor Bich, and his Assistant, Lorenzo Magri from Italy. The Technical Controller was Sissy Krick from the host country. But one judge still gave a +3 GoE. Along with seven +2s, there was also a 0 which still means satisfactory in every aspect.
The flying camel combination spin was Level 4 with four +3s, four +2s and a +1 from the grumpy judge. At the half way stage when the 10% bonus marks for click in for jumps and throws, they executed a lovely, softly-landed soaring throw triple loop, which deserved and got unanimous +3s. (It earned the Grump’s only +3 award.)
Their “choreographed” section was next which only has Level 1. It was awarded seven +2s, one +1 and one 0 from the Grump! Their throw triple Salchow received four +3s, two +2s, and three +1s,
Their Group 5 Reverse entry lift gained three +3s and six +2s. Their pair combination spin earned Level 4 with one +3, five +2s and three +1s.They finished with two audience pleasing lifts, a Group 5 Back entry lift which received three +3s, five +2s, and +1 from the Grump. They concluded with another lift, this one from Group 3 which got one +3, seven +2s and a zero (not from the Grump, who was the only judge to award the Russians only one +3 out of the 12 awards.)
For the components, Volosozhar & Trankov got one 10, which was for Interpretation out of the 45 marks. The lowest was one 8.75 for Transitions.
Not surprisingly, the Germans who placed second, Daniel Wende, who married his partner, Maylin Hausch, in June, were a huge (57.08 points) behind the winners, but were delighted to gain silver. They are the 2011 & 2013 national champions, but had to take the season between these years off because they had to recover from injuries. The new bride explained, “We’d been planning to get married for two years, but struggled to set a date. Things kept coming up. Now, I feel wonderful. When I step on the ice, I hear my new name being called – Wende & Wende. He was my best friend, and now we will grow old together.”
The bronze medals were also claimed by Germans, Mari Vartman & Aaron Van Cleave, who advanced from fourth. Another Germany pair, Annabelle Prolss & Ruben Blommaert stepped up a place to fourth overall.
Also climbing a place, to fifth, were the new U.S. pair Lindsay Davis & Rockne Brubaker, despite losing marks for an entire element because they aborted their first lift. (The other two lifts, set as their 9th & 11th elements were fine, earning Level 4 for the Lasso and Level 3 for the Group 3 lift. Their routine ended with a concluding Level 4 combination pair spin which earned +0.50 over its base value.
Most disappointed were the new Canadian pair, Natasha Purich and Mervin Tran, who dropped from third after the SP to sixth overall, just 0.76 of a point behind the Americans, Davis & Brubaker.
Britain’s Stacey Kemp & David King, who train in Ellenton, Florida, were straight seventh in the field of 19 pairs from 17 countries, and were the top pair to earn one of the four additional berths to the Olympic Games.
Natasha Purich and Mervin Tran, who dropped from third after the SP to sixth overall, just 0.76 of a point behind the Americans, Lindsay & Rocky, were very disappointed but no doubt NOT as much as Mervin's former partner. When he last competed with Narumi Takahashi, they won the bronze medal at Worlds, the first ever to gain a pair medal for Japan. But they broke up because the Japanese government would not issue the Canadian born Mervin a Japanese passport. They hoped a newcomer, who was Japanese, could effectively get up to standard in time to earn one of the additional four Olympic berths. But their place in Oberstdorf, 11th, was only good enough for them to be the first reserve for the additional four. So now, they have to keep on training, hoping that one couple will drop out, not a very good position to be in!
Nobunari Oda gave a brilliant performance, skating last, to earn victory with 262.98, a huge margin of 34.55 points over the tall, young American, Jason Brown, who scored 228.43. Jeremy Ten of Canada was third with 205.56 and the son of twice Olympic pair champion, Artur Dmitriev, who carries his father’s name, was fourth.
Oda, the 26-year-old veteran, skated last. He said he was very nervous during the time from the warm-up to when his name was called for his Free, which seemed endless. But, when he got on the ice ready to skate, the audience appeared so friendly he quickly got over that stage.
His opening combination of quad toe loop to triple toe loop, earned him a phenomenal 16.40 points (14.40 base plus 2.0 GoE), with one judge inspired enough to award a +3 for this element. However, although his planned second element, planned as a second quad toe loop jump, morphed into a mere triple, that same judge punched in +3 again. There were no negatives at all in the 117 Grades of Execution given by the nine judges, who must have been exhausted by the almost five complete hours of competition.
His Free, set to Rossini’s stirring “William Tell Overture”, is undoubtedly a masterpiece, although there were minor errors His third element, a triple Axel to double toe loop is probably going to develop into a triple-triple as the season progresses. His first spin, a flying sit was the maximum Level 4 with +0.43. The following step sequence received Level 3 with +0.71.
At the halfway stage where the bonus 10% clicks in, he executed his second triple Axel and gained the maximum +3 Grade of Execution from four of the nine judges, with the other five awarding +2. After a +0.70 triple Lutz to double toe loop, and a +1.30 triple flip, he presented a Level 3 Flying Camel Combination spin. The triple loop which followed received a +3 from one judge who also punched in another +3 for the triple Salchow which came next. Four judges believed the “Choreographed Section” was worthy of +3 and one of those judges also gave +3 for the Level 4 combination spin which closed the routine. His components ranged from a low of one 7.0 up to four 9.25s, three of which were given by same judge.
Oda said that although he was excited by the response of the audience and judges here, and that he had never, ever won a competition by such a huge margin, he was cautious about reading anything into that fact. He has now won three gold medals in a row on this rink, but he has a lot of competition at home. His goal is just to make the Olympic team. He still has work to do to make the program perfect. He said he must not get too excited. There is also a report going around that he may cut down his visits to train in Canada.
Brown, who turns 19 on December 15, has made a huge step forward now that he has moved, with his long-time coach Kori Ade, who has taught him since he was five, to Colorado. He trains in Monument, and goes to Colorado Springs to work with the jump harness. Brown presented a slick showing which was very smooth but did not approach Oda’s difficulty level.
Brown drew to skate 30 th, second in the last group of 6. Dressed in a green top with gold trimings and brown trousers, he did an Irish dance to Bill Whelan’s “Reel Around the Sun”. Because he is very flexible, he was able to incorporate a spiral and other established dance positions making the routine unique on the ice. He has no Irish ancestry but he enjoys watching all form of dance and that is very apparent to spectators.
His first move was “only” a good double Axel but he got “Wows” for the following triple Axel to triple toe loop which earned a total of 13.17 points. Two of his spins and his footwork earned the maximum Level 4 and his final spin. However, his second triple Axel was punished with two arrows for a downgrade on the rotation. A triple Lutz to half loop to triple Salchow at the halfway point earned a total of 12.47 but the following triple flip to double toe loop got one arrow for slight under-rotation on the flip.
Brown also earned his record margin, over the bronze medalist Jeremy Ten of Canada, of 22.87. Although the standings of the top four stayed the same, Ten was only fifth in Saturday’s Final round, after falling and gaining only one Level 4. But he still finished 3.82 points ahead of the Artur Dmitriev, who was fourth overall.
Dmitriev has rechanneled Philippe Candeloro’s extremely popular “D’Artagnan” routine. It’s rough, but out-and-out sword fighting IS rough and full of intense feelings. Although he gave a very energetic display and portrayed a lot of emotion, it was a flawed showing.
Alexei Bychenko is a 25-year-old who formerly competed for Ukraine. However, he is Jewish and therefore entitled to an Israeli passport. He is now training in the United States with Galit Chait, who won a world championship medal for Israel in ice dance. Alexei pulled up from eighth after the SP to fifth overall, with a FS which was third best.
Zoltan Keleman from Romania was sixth throughout.
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